MS Leader: All aflutter over Twitter

The fact that ’to tweet’ is now recognised as a legitimate verb goes to show how influential Twitter has become.

Set up in 2006, it now has around 200 million users worldwide. It’s so influential it’s widely credited with fanning the flames of political unrest that led to the Arab spring and uprooting of at least three Middle Eastern dictators so it’s intriguing to see the Financial Services Authority’s attempts to clamp down on mortgage industry tweets.

“Brightstar Financial to launch a UK exclusive product with Saffron BS on Monday 09th May. BTL with no ERCs at under 5% #WOW,” tweeted Rob Jupp, managing director of Brightstar Financial. He was contacted by the regulator last week, which warned him that as an unregulated packager, the 140 characters could have overstepped the line into offering advice.

Is the definition of advice now ’providing information’?

The FSA’s critique of Jupp’s tweet looks even odder when you look at the Advertising Standards Authority’s judgment on the FSA-owned Mortgage Advice Service. The ASA received 80 complaints about its television advertisement, which described its service as providing free independent advice.

“The ASA considered that most consumers would understand the references to ’advice’ in the ad to mean the advertisers offered general information, guidance and advice on financial issues and products in a general sense rather than providing advice in the specific, technical and commercial way that IFAs offered,” it said.

So making a statement about a product only available via a broker is advice but a declaration of offering independent advice by an FSA body is just providing information? The FSA needs to apply some joined-up thinking to its policing of industry communications. At the moment it seems to be #overreacting.